Respiratory tract infections

Identifying and differentiating respiratory pathogens is critical to effective infection management

Acute respiratory infections are one of the leading causes of death and disability in the world.1

Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) include both upper tract infections, like the common cold, and lower tract infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and tuberculosis. While most upper respiratory infections can resolve on their own, lower respiratory tract infections can pose a substantial health challenge, especially for infants, the elderly, and the immunocompromised.2,3

Respiratory infections are caused by a wide variety of pathogens. Viruses like influenza A and B, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) command much attention, but similar symptoms may also be presented by other agents, including bacteria like Streptococcus and Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB, TB).

The non-specific clinical presentation of respiratory infections poses a considerable challenge to the differential diagnosis of pathogens. In primary care settings, empiric treatment with antibiotics is frequently initiated—even when a viral infection is a strong possibility—leading to unnecessary or inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics.4,5 An early and accurate diagnosis is essential to identifying the cause of a respiratory infection and ensuring appropriate antimicrobial therapy.

To optimize time-to-treatment, the diagnosis of acute respiratory tract infections cannot always rely on the traditional method of culture alone. Therefore, other methods for antibody and antigen detection, and especially nucleic acid amplification techniques (NAT), have been developed in order to improve sensitivity, specificity, and detection time of pathogens causing RTIs. These tests can offer high sensitivity and specificity, and may be run on fully automated high-throughput systems, point-of-care (POC) solutions, or syndromic testing solutions. Delivering timely and reliable results empowers healthcare professionals to make more informed treatment decisions while elevating the overall value provided by testing locations.

Roche’s role in respiratory tract infection detection

As a global leader in vitro diagnostics, Roche invests heavily in research and development to deliver impactful technologies that address real-world needs.

To address the prevalence, complexity, and variety of respiratory tract infections, Roche offers a range of tests and technologies to support the detection and management of respiratory disease—from the world’s first commercial PCR test to detect SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and its respective antibody test, to molecular point-of-care multiplex assays that can differentiate common viral agents, such as influenza A, influenza B, and RSV, in a single test.

Targeting tuberculosis—one of the world's most common infectious disease.6

To address the burden Mycobacterium tuberculosis places on healthcare systems and patients, Roche partners with national governments, local healthcare facilities, communities and international agencies to provide increased access to diagnostics in countries hardest hit by the disease.

As respiratory infections continue to pose a global challenge, Roche remains committed to supporting laboratories and testing centers around the world with innovative solutions that enable them to provide patients and their clinicians with a reliable diagnosis when and where it is needed most.

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  1. World Health Organization. The Global Impact of Respiratory Disease. 2017. Accessed June 4, 2020.
  2. Das S, Dunbar S, Tang YW. Laboratory Diagnosis of Respiratory Tract Infections in Children - the State of the Art. Front Microbiol. 2018;9:2478.
  3. Echavarría M, Marconea DN, Querci M, et al. Clinical impact of rapid molecular detection of respiratory pathogens in patients with acute respiratory infection. J Clin Virol. 2018;108:90-95.
  4. Kotwani A, Holloway K. Antibiotic prescribing practice for acute, uncomplicated respiratory tract infections in primary care settings in New Delhi, India. Trop Med Int Health. 2014;19(7):761‐768.
  5. Hersh AL, Shapiro DJ, Pavia AT, Shah SS. Antibiotic prescribing in ambulatory pediatrics in the United States. Pediatrics. 2011;128(6):1053‐1061.
  6. World Health Organization. Global tuberculosis report 2019. Accessed June 4, 2020.